The connections between Sidney’s syllogistic style of argument and his use of irony and/or humor.


In Defense of Poesy, Sidney, by using irony and humor (often satirical), Sidney disparage a certain target . Also, he frequently refers to classical models, fables, and anecdotes which enliven  his critical literary writing. Sidney attempts to delight and to teach the audience through the usage of irony and humor, just as a poet would do through its poesy.

For example, irony is the core statement when Sidney discuss about the relationships between a poet and a historian. He does not merely insist the superiority of a poet over a historian but instead argues,  “And even historiographers, although their lips sound of things done and verity be written in their foreheads, have been glad to borrow both fashion and perchance weight of poets” (Sidney, 9).  Sidney ironically ridicules how the historiographers have their “verity be written in their foreheads” and suggest the superiority of a poet.  

Referring to Aristotle’s argument; “because poesy dealeth with katholou, that is to say with the universal consideration, and the history with kath’hekaston, the particular”(Sydney, 18), Sidney attacks on how historical approach can only say what has happened, unlike poetry which can say what might happen. Sidney then, humorously using Vespasian’s picture as example, argues how things could turn out more pleasant and historians should take poetic approach which is not to see everything truly. “And whereas a….but if he know an example only informs a conjectured likelihood, and so go by reason, the poet doth so far exceed him, as he is to frame his example to that which is most reasonable, be it in warlike, politic or private matters, where the historian in his bare ‘was’ wisdom – many times he must tell events whereof he can yield no cause, of if he do, it must be poetically”(Sidney, 19).

Furthermore, Sidney argues how poesy has been highly esteemed by all over the nations, emphasizing on the Romans who have called a poet as “vates” (a diviner, foreseer or prophet) and the Greeks who have called a poet “a maker”. Then, he ironically states how even the barbarous and uncivilized Indians have their own poets and he pushes on his argument on the later part of Defense of Poesy when he says, “And therefore, as I said in the beginning, even Turks and Tartars are delighted with poets” (Sidney, 37). Thus, it is wrong to despise poets and the “civilized” people (Englishmen) should respect them.

Sidney, throughout Defense of Poesy, teaches and delights (which is what a poesy should do) the audience by ironically criticizing a historian in order to present the supremacy of a poet.

Posted by: Hikari Yoshida

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